Barnstaple Town sprung into the final month of the season with their Evo-Stik Division One South survival hopes still very much in tact after a crucial victory over title chasers Yate Town this afternoon (Saturday).
Barum made it a league double over Yate with a 2-1 victory at Mill Road, a result which dislodged the visitors from the top of the table.
Saddam Bello struck both the goals for the hosts as they turned in an organised and disciplined performance that frustrated the title chasers. His first came six minutes into the second half after bursting in behind the Yate defence and finishing one-on-one with James Carey.
Bello was composed for his second with two minutes of the 90 remaining, but the visitors replied in the first of eight minutes of stoppage time to set up a nail-biter of a finish for the near-250-strong crowd.
The victory, coupled with Bideford’s 2-0 win at Mangotsfield, means Barnstaple have five games to turn around a three-point margin between themselves and safety. If they produce performances like this afternoon’s it shouldn’t be a problem.
With manager Aaron Harper-Penman in Las Vegas, assistant manager Josh Pearce took charge for the hosts, who set themselves up to defend first before going on the counter attack.
The league leaders had plenty of the ball early in the first half, but despite plenty of possession inside the Barnstaple half, didn’t carve out many chances.
The biggest scare for what was a well-organised Barnstaple side came after 20 minutes when David Sims-Burgess got on the end of a cross from the left from Mehew, but the forward’s touch was over the bar.
Barum hadn’t managed to get forward too much in the first 30 minutes, but came close soon after. Pressure from Bello forced Yate goalkeeper James Carey to take in a backpass 12 yards from goal.
Jenkins’ free kick was well stopped by the Bristol City loanee, and while the ricochet fell to Jed Harper-Penman, his effort went over the crossbar.
Yate went close again before half time, with Michael Bryant off target after meeting a Mehew cross.
Part of Barnstaple’s problem all season has been conceding goals either side of half-time, and they almost made the same mistake two minutes into the second half when Mehew was able to skip in behind the Barnstaple defence.
With the forward running through to go one-on-one with Steve Oliver, Brodie Montague was able to get just enough on the ball to stop Mehew and to stop referee Stuart Annis from pointing to the penalty spot.
Six minutes later and it was Barnstaple celebrating. Mike Humphreys’ ball from the right saw Bello get in behind the Yate defence, with the striker having the pace to pull away and get slot a low finish past Carey and into the bottom corner.
With the lead in their hands, it became about game management for Barnstaple, and they managed to keep things tight and frustrate the visitors into the final minutes.
It was with two of the 90 remaining that Bello looked to have wrapped up the win for Barum, winning the ball, riding a challenge and taking the ball away from the onrushing Carey before poking a low shot into the back of the net.
Yate replied almost immediately to set up a frenetic finish. Mehew benefitted from a ricochet among the Barnstaple defence to fire past Oliver in the first of nine minutes of stoppage time.
The visitors threw just about everything at Barnstaple as the clock ticked down, but the hosts held firm to take what could be a vital three points in a month’s time.
Barnstaple Town: Oliver, Humphreys, Reed, Ward (Glover 79), Nancekivell, Montague, J Harper-Penman, Jenkins, Bello (Sharp 89), Langford (Rice-Lethaby74), Short. Subs not used: Cann, Holland.
Yate Town: Carey, Humphreys (Langworthy 84), Keightley, Peare, Ford, Boulton, Kamara (Price 57), Guest, Mehew, Bryant, Sims-Burgess (Brooks 73). Subs not used: Twyman, Evans.